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Archive of May 17, 2008

Pope presented with Italian versions of works by Jesuit expert on human intelligence

Vatican City, May 17, 2008 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict XVI was presented with the Italian versions of the works by Jesuit Father Bernard J.F. Lonergan, a Canadian expert on human intelligence, the L’Osservatore Romano published an interview emphasizing the important contribution of the Jesuit priest to research in this field.

Father Lonergan, who is a brilliant but unknown scholar, has a reputation for his “commitment of service to the Church.  And, above all, for his openness. I remember he was attentive to his students and gave suggestions and clarifications to each one,” said Jesuit Father Natalino Spaccapelo, who is curator of the “Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan.”

Father Spaccapelo told LOR that Father Lonergan “is probably one of the most studied authors in the world, especially so in the socio-economic sphere.”

In “Insight,” Father Lonergan’s most important work, he did not propose a theory, “but rather he returned to the definition and clarification of the human structure, a structure of thought that can be traced back not to a certain historical period or to a certain society, but rather to the whole human being.  ‘Insight’ is the instrument for understanding how intelligence operates in different fields of knowledge, to which he has dedicated himself with amazing meticulousness.”

“Starting from the concept that conscience is a melody that is articulated in the different contexts of human life, Lonergan has put forth research on studying how human intelligence operates—always with the same structure—in the scientific, humanist, philosophical, historical and theological methods,” Father Spaccapelo continued.

He went on to note that Father Lonergan’s works are very popular at Catholic universities in Italy. One particular teaching of Longeran’s that has gained traction “holds that the modern world has formulated knowledge on the basis of concepts, when what is needed is for knowledge to be reformulated on the basis of what precedes concepts,” as “building knowledge on concepts makes it immobile, while building it on intelligence makes it dynamic and forward progress.”

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Cardinal Zen says time not right yet for papal visit to China

Rome, Italy, May 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, said from Turin this week that “the time has not yet come for the Pope to visit China,” as “his trip would be used by the government, would be misunderstood and would do nothing for the faithful of the Roman Church.”

“In China there is no religious freedom or freedom of the press, and although the government wants you to think it is opening up in view of the Olympic Games, it controls the internet all the time,” Cardinal Zen said.

The cardinal recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics in which he called on Communist authorities to guarantee “authentic religious freedom” to Chinese Catholics. He noted that after the release of the Pope’s letter, “nothing has changed.” Therefore, he said he was skeptical that Chinese officials would fulfill their promise to “halt the ordination of bishops” not approved by Rome during the Olympic period.

Although he acknowledged that “the Olympic Games can help change the current situation of repression,” Cardinal Zen warned that the “Chinese government, even in the pre-Olympic period, wants to control everything, it is omnivorous.”

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CARA concerned over some interpretations of the “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey”

Washington D.C., May 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic results of the Pew survey entitled "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" have been closely examined by CARA, a Georgetown University research center who points out that commentators may have initially jumped to conclusions after reading the results in the Pew study.

Mark Gray, Director of CARA Catholic Polls; and Joseph Claude Harris, an independent Church research analyst, note in a Letter to the Editor in the April 6, 2008 edition of Our Sunday Visitor that when the Pew survey results were released, “Commentators were swift to assign blame, noting a range of factors from the sex abuse crisis to shortages of priests, or even the long-term effects of the Second Vatican Council.” 

The Catholic Church has lost the most members out of all the denominations but, as Gray explained to CNA, “it's also the biggest religion and when you translate the discussion in to proportions you can see the Catholic Church is doing quite well comparatively. It keeps more of its young faithful than any Protestant denomination.”

A CARA essay titled, “The Impact of Religious Switching and Secularization on the Estimated Size of the U.S. Adult Catholic Population,” details the proportions: the “Pew study indicates that the Catholic Church has retained 68 percent of those who grew up Catholic.  By comparison, 60 percent of those raised Baptist are still Baptists as adults.”  Retention rates are much lower for “Lutherans (59 percent), Methodists and Pentecostals (both 47 percent), Episcopalians (45 percent), and Presbyterians (40 percent).”

In fact, out of all religions in the U.S. consisting of at least 3 million adult members, “only those who were raised Jewish or Mormon are more likely than Catholics to keep their faith as adults (76 and 70 percent, respectively),” the essay stated.

Another issue addressed by CARA is the concern that Pew’s “Religious Landscape Survey” underestimates the size of the Catholic population.

CARA points out that the Pew survey “estimated a smaller proportion of Latinos selfidentifying as Catholic compared to other surveys (i.e., where Spanish or bilingual interviewing is used), including other recent Pew studies.”  This is something noted by the authors of the Pew report who state, “The number of Latinos in the Landscape Survey who identify themselves as Catholic (58%) is considerably lower than in a major survey of Latinos the Forum conducted in 2006 with the Pew Hispanic Research Center, where more than two-thirds (68%) identified as Catholic.”

The CARA essay estimates that “The difference between the 58 percent and 68 percent affiliation among adult Latinos is equivalent to 2.7 million U.S. adults.”

Another matter that has led commentators to jump to conclusions is that the Pew report does not include information as to when a person left the Catholic Church. 

In a 2003 poll, CARA found that “more than half of former Catholics stopped considering themselves Catholic before 1988 (54 percent).”  Gray told CNA that the amount of Catholics leaving the Church has been fairly constant over time.  “There are not a lot of big differences in any segment of time and no evidence of some moment where there was a mass exodus.”

The CARA essay notes, “The median age at which former Catholics stopped considering themselves as Catholic is 21.  This median age is consistent with research that indicates that these religious changes may often coincide with the young adult stage of life where separation from family, relocation, increased mobility, and marriage are common”

CARA’s report concluded by stating that the presentation of the results “may have left the impression that a vast number of Catholics recently got up and left the faith and that these losses were worse than those experienced by any other faith. In relative terms—as the percentage of those who retained the affiliation of their childhood—the Catholic Church has been among the most successful faiths in the United States."

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